New drugs to treat obesity could soon be available to patients.
Two new obesity drugs are on the verge of government approval, which could determine whether or not the drugs will be sold in the United States as early as this summer.
The two pills awaiting approval from the Food and Drug Administration within the next few weeks are Qnexa and Lorcaserin. The latter is made by local San Diego-based company Arena Pharmeceuticals, and will be ruled on next month.
According to researchers, tests have shown that patients using Qnexa lost up to 10-percent of their body weight, so a 300-pound person could lose up to 30 pounds using the drug.
“Lorcaserin has made that benchmark of 5-percent responders. Most of the patients will lose at least 5-percent of their weight,” Dr. Ken Fujioka of Scripps Health told NBCSanDiego.
“If you do the two together, now you can get 10 to 15-percent weight loss. That's a lot more in terms of health benefits and weight loss itself,” he added.
With one in three people in the U.S. classified as obese, the new drugs could be very widely used. Many believe they could be blockbuster medications to treat obese patients.
“Because we've not had a [weight loss] drug approved for over 10 years -- and we have very few weight loss drugs -- both of them could be blockbusters. Either one could do very well,” said Fujioka.
But the new medication doesn’t mean people can start gorging on donuts and ice cream.
If approved, Fujioka said the FDA will likely require that the drugs be prescribed in conjunction with diet and exercise in hopes of preventing other illnesses that stem from obesity, such as diabetes and heart disease.
He believes the drugs will be expensive, so the next question after their potential approval is whether or not insurance will cover the prescriptions.
Fujioka also said the drugs are not for casual use, but rather for patients who have significant weight to lose.
“If somebody has 10 pounds to lose for a wedding they would not qualify for these medications. But if somebody has something more like 35 or 40 pounds – diabetes, something that is going to get better with weight loss -- they're clearly a candidate for these medications,” he explained.
This is the second time these drugs have been submitted to the FDA for review.
Applications for FDA approval were also filed in 2010, but this time around the companies have been able to respond to concerns about side effects that may be associated with the pills.